Dili, Timor-Leste , 02 Aug 2011 -- This morning, His Excellency the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Dr José Ramos-Horta, inaugurated the National Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) in Caicoli, Dili. The Laboratory, a Bio-Safety Level 2 modular infrastructure, represents the major physical output of the Biosecurity Strengthening Project (BSP) implemented by FAO in partnership with the National Directorate of Livestock and Veterinary Services of MAF, with generous funding from Australia.
Since 2007 FAO has cooperated with MAF to strengthen the country’s veterinary services and enhance the awareness of the population regarding animal health issues. The immediate objective of the project was to limit the risk of spread in Timor-Leste of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which is still posing threats to human health and causing serious damages to the poultry sector in Indonesia, where the disease is endemic.
However, the scope was soon widened to incorporate improved animal health surveillance capacity, enable early reporting and identification of animal diseases, and allow for proper response measures which reduce the impact on livestock and the risks for human health.
“The national veterinary laboratory is a very important asset for the country. It will have a very important economic impact because it will protect livestock, which represent a key livelihood for our people, and enable the certification of livestock products for export. Moreover, it will also contribute to human health by reducing the incidence and preventing the spread of infectious animal diseases”, said President Ramos-Horta during the inauguration ceremony.
“This is a good example of how Australia can work with others to achieve results. Our support through the Biosecurity Project has helped the government to establish a system for increasing public awareness, surveillance and monitoring, response capability, and vaccination against disease outbreaks. This veterinary laboratory is an important part of this system to test, identify, and respond to disease outbreaks”, said the Australian Ambassador Miles Armitage.
“FAO is committed to continue assisting the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the area of animal health. A training programme conducted in partnership with Bogor University is currently taking place in the laboratory and will continue at least until the end of the year. Depending on support from donors, FAO considers it essential to extend its support to MAF beyond 2011 to maximize impact and ensure sustainability of the very positive results achieved by BSP”, said the FAO Emergency Coordinator in Timor-Leste, Fabrizio Cesaretti.
The laboratory is currently the only facility in the country with the potential of providing diagnostic services to the vast majority of the people whose livelihoods are dependent on animal husbandry. The laboratory will be a strong arm of the veterinary services of MAF, and will assist in properly understanding the type and distribution of animal diseases in Timor-Leste, thus providing vital information needed for the planning of prevention and control measures to address important diseases including Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) and the many infectious diseases that pose great threat to human health.
The successful operation of the laboratory and the animal health information which will be obtained from the lab activities will be important in providing credible information to the international community and in promoting the exportation of safe livestock and livestock products to neighboring countries such as Indonesia as well as the importation of safe animal products in Timor-Leste.
Press release issued by the FAO office in Dili.